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Better Business Bureau: New robo-call laws

By Victoria Advocate
Feb. 25, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 24, 2012 at 8:25 p.m.

Alan Bligh

By Alan Bligh

Got your cell phones and your landline phones on the nation's Do Not Call list, but you're still getting those aggravating automated recorded messages known as robo-calls? Well, I have good news for you.

The Federal Communications Commission has now clamped down on telemarketers who use robo-call technology with a few new regulations. The new regulations include: •  Requiring telemarketers to obtain prior written consent before placing robo-calls to consumers.

Eliminating the exemption for companies that have an "established business relationship" with consumers.

Requiring telemarketers to provide an automated, interactive opt-out mechanism during each robo-call so consumers can immediately tell the telemarketer to stop calling.

Limiting the number of so-called dead-air calls in which consumers answer phones and hear nothing.

The changes do not affect current requirements about informational calls (reminder calls from your doctor, etc.) or calls involving charities or political speech.

More than 209 million consumers have signed up for the federal Do Not Call list. But some say the list just isn't working. More than 8 million complaints in all have been filed, but the Federal Trade Commission's records show they only took action 83 times.

The commission has gone after big name violators like DIRECTV, Dish Network and Columbia House, collecting more than $500 million in fines. The commission said it goes after the persons or company that makes the most impact.

The agency only takes action if it's an interstate complaint. So, if you live in Texas it's not an commission issue unless the call is routed out of state. By law, calls are allowed from political groups, charities and telephone surveys. Or if you've had a business relationship with a company within the last 18 months and the call is not a robo-call.

Aside from that, spring is on the way, which means many are thinking of vacation. The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to make travel arrangements through trustworthy travel agencies.

Choosing the wrong company could lead to frustration. Last year, the bureau received more than 7,000 complaints nationally against travel agencies and bureaus. Most complaints allege consumers felt misled by travel offers that failed to deliver on promises. Follow these tips to ensure your trip will be memorable for all the right reasons: •  Use a local travel company you trust. Check them out at bbb.org.

•  Get all vacation details in writing.

•  Verify reservations. This means every reservation directly with the provider.

•  Consider travel insurance. What happens if you become ill and cannot go?

•  Pay with a credit card. This gives you built-in protections.

•  Be on the alert for travel scams. And as always, watch out for "too good to be true" deals.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by email at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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